Ann Ingalls

Sue Uhlig Ford

Interview at Kidlit Central

Many thanks to Sue Uhlig Ford for doing this interview on October 12, 2009.

Meet and Greet Ann Ingalls

Ann Ingalls co-authored LITTLE PIANO GIRL (Houghton Mifflin, January 2010) with her sister, Maryann Macdonald. Ann lives in Kansas City and Maryann lives in New York. Ann also writes for children’s magazines. Read more about her at her new website:

Q. Tell us how LITTLE PIANO GIRL came about. What inspired it?

I had written a nonfiction alphabet picture book called J is for Jive. When looking for endorsements for that work, a member of the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors suggested that I change the W in the alphabet book from Work Songs to Williams. The more I read about her, the more intrigued I became. I shared the idea with my dear sister and she wanted to partner for this project. We have co-authored lots of things, some of which have sold to magazines and one that won a third place in Missouri Writers’ Guild’s poetry contest several years back.

Q. What brought you and Maryann together to work on this project? (Besides the fact that you are related…)

Maryann and I share a love of music, storytelling, and the same ideas about what makes a good picture book. We edit each other’s work and enjoy good music, singing together badly and a serious love of oatmeal raisin cookies.

Q. What can you tell us about collaborating on a project?

This requires respect for the other’s ideas and flexibility. We split up the research and shared what we each learned. We each interviewed prominent individuals in the jazz community, read the same liner notes, Mary Lou’s hand-written notes, interviews in Melodymaker Magazine and Downbeat. I sought out the endorsements. We each looked for agents and we passed the manuscript back and forth or read it aloud to each other about 100 times. No kidding.

Q. Where did you and your sister grow up?

We grew up in the Detroit metropolitan area where Polish food is good and Motown Music is grand. We taught each other lots of silly dance moves and cheers. We were both cheerleaders in high school and can still remember some of them. No more splits or cartwheels for us.

Q. How long have you been writing for children? What got you interested in writing for children?

I have been writing for children since the first day I entered a classroom. When I started teaching special education in Michigan in the Dark Ages, interesting text was not available for older readers with lower reading ability. That was great practice for keeping it simple but using some high interest words.

Q. Now that you’ve sold a book do you still plan to write for magazines?

Yes, ma’am. I love to write anything that pleases others. I’ve worked with some of the greatest editors at High Five and Primary Treasure (Kathleen Hayes and Aileen Andres Sox.)

Q. Can you tell us about your current work in process?

I am working on about 30 or more projects and crossing my fingers on a couple that publishers are holding. Each of those manuscript has had 3 or more readings by the editorial board but I never count my chickens even after they’ve hatched.

Q. What would you like to tell others about writing a historical picture book?

It took two years to do the research, one year to write it, six months to find an agent (I need a new one!), six months to get a contract, one year to find an illustrator, one year for her to do the illustrations and one year for Houghton Mifflin to print and market the book.

Q. Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I love to read other people’s work. I love it when they read mine and offer suggestions to make it better.

I can’t eat chocolate because it gives me migraines but take pleasure in seeing others enjoy that. Eat some chocolate for me.

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